Bulls' collective effort has star potential

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Bulls' collective effort has star potential

CLEVELANDIt appears that this will be a theme this season. The Bulls, without injured superstar Derrick Rose, will be an unselfish squad, score by committee, play determined defense on a nightly basis and try to get out in transition.
Of course, the caliber of opponent will varynot every team will struggle as much as the hapless, inexperienced Cavaliersand they wont record 34 assists on nearly 64-percent shooting every night, but the aforementioned principles will remain constants.
It also helps to have some extra motivation.
I thought the readiness to play was really good, I thought the defense was very good to start the game and then, we ran the floor well and we played inside-out, and we shared the ball, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau explained. When you look at intensity, you have to understand where it comes from. It comes from your concentration, being prepared and your effort. When you put those three things together, youll be intense. It doesnt come from emotion. You have to understand where it does come from, so if we put the work in and we do the right things, and were ready to go, well be intense.
It was a balanced attack. The ball was moving and when a guy got going, they searched him out a little bit. We got our cutting game going, got to the free-throw line. Theres still things we can do better, he continued. The balls hopping, making quick decisions. That part is really good.
What Thibodeau neglected to mention was the fact that the Bulls wanted to avenge one of their two preseason lossesthey already repaid Minnesota upon the Timberwolves return exhibition trip to Chicagoa disappointing defeat in Champaign, Ill., on the campus of the University of Illinois.
We watched our last game that we played against them. They kind of blitzed us and they got after it. At the end, we came back. We ended up losing by two or three in the preseason. We remembered that, Nate Robinson revealed. We were like, Were going to come here, were going to play hard, were going to get after it from jump ball to the end, and we did that.
Getting revenge wasnt the only objective on the evening for the Bulls, however. It appeared that they were trying to challenge themselves to execute expertly or, as Thibodeau likes to say, strive for perfection.
Coach does a good job of every day, repetition, going over the plays, getting guys in spots where they can be successful, Robinson, a catalyst on the night, said. Thats what basketballs about, playing team ball and everybody getting a piece of the pie.Thats me. Just bring the energy. Everything else will take care of itself, he added. I made a couple shots, but just trying to make the right play. Not trying to make the home-run play. Just getting guys involved, attacking, keep driving and kicking, and finding guys. Im just having fun.
Whether it was Robinsons energy, Rip Hamiltons marksmanship, the versatility displayed by forwards Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer or the collective selflessness in both transition and against Clevelands set defense, the Bulls looked like a juggernaut Friday.
It was awesome. It felt good. I think everybody felt good. I think the good thing about it was everybody was catching the ball in their sweet spot and just trying to make the easy play, Hamilton explained. Its hard to guard. When youve got guys at every position that can score and play, and make the right play, it puts pressure on the defense at all times. The floor always stays spaced, guys are scared to help.
Added Boozer: We came out of the gate with intensity defensively. I thought we did a great job of trying to stop them from scoring to start the game and to be honest, that just kind of set the tone for the rest of the game for us. Offensively, you know unselfish we are. We pass, we cut, we screen, take open shots. We do a good job of moving the ball, but I think the key to the game was how we came out defensively.
"You've got to measure yourself if it's good enough to win against the great teams. Not taking anything away from Cleveland, but our goals are much higher than beating Cleveland. Our goal is to try to win a championship and for us to do that, we have to measure how we're playing and if it's championship-worthy. Thibs talks to us about that all the time and amongst ourselves in the locker room, we talk about that, too."
No, it's not flashy and yes, Friday's blowout wasn't against the cream of the crop. But it's effective and on the nights when the Bulls are clicking--even without the gaudy shooting statistics, but still executing at a high level--on any given night, that type of solid play is capable of beating anybody.

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Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you're ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Bulls: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Bulls fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Bulls Pulse